Tega Okiti

Producer, programmer and curator, Tega Okiti, advocates letting curiosity be your guide and avoiding getting caught up in the cannon.

(c) Udall Evans

What’s your connection to the British Council? Any possible future collaborations in the pipeline?
I am the recipient of the British Council Art Connects Us programme, a fantastic scheme that gives creative practitioners the chance to build connections and explore opportunities for projects and programmes within and about Sub-Saharan Africa. I’m hoping I can build on the experiences I’ve had this past year with the British Council – watch this space!

What are you working on right now?
I've have just wrapped the eighth edition of Film Africa where I worked as Festival Producer and Programmer. I'm about to start planning the programme for a curatorial platform I'll start in 2019 called Alphabet Soup that will feature essays, film programmes and a writer's residency. I'm also preparing to attend the Clore Emerging Leaders residency and starting work to support the London Film Festival as regional programme advisor for Sub-Saharan Africa.

What/who originally turned you onto film?
My mother is a big film lover we were always watching films and recording them on our VHS player (which might be considered piracy now!)

What has been your career high so far?
The very recent experience I had teaching a workshop on film programming with a group of young people in Nairobi. It was great to share knowledge about what I do and help them steer the wacky and wonderful ideas for their own projects. Wacky and wonderful is my space so it meant a lot!

What was your first job in the film industry?
Press Assistant at Sheffield Doc/Fest. It was an amazing experience that ushered me into to the sector in film I occupy today. The preparation and delivery of festival can be really intense but when the elements come together the experience and atmosphere of a festival is unmistakable. When I left I was exhausted but I knew I wanted to do it again.

If I knew then what I know now…(a key piece of advice you’d give to someone starting off in filmmaking)
Firstly, I’d extend that to the Film Industry rather than Filmmaking as there are loads of incredible careers you can have in the industry that don’t involve yelling ‘action’. Then, I’d suggest something I’ve always done without realising, which is allowing curiosity to be your guide. There’s no set formula to building a career today so it’s better to refine your skills and build a foundation based on what you feel passionate about. Occupying a sector you are willing to constantly learn and grow within is important.

I’d say don’t get caught up in the cannon. There is something quite rigid about the way we teach, read and present cinema with polarised ideas about good/bad high/low brow. As a curator, and I call myself one, none of that matters if you’re interested in a continued study of the field, creating experiences for people and exploring the potential for cinema to read and reflect our reality.

What is your favourite British film? Why?
Withnail and I, I feel like I don’t need to qualify this choice.

If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be? Why?
Gridlock’d by Vondie Curtis Hall starring Tupac Shakur, Tim Roth and Thandie Newton. It’s a small indie film made in the mid-90s that skilfully mingles the rawness and marginalisation of life as an artist and our absurd experiences of urban life under ailing government systems. The film is super witty and visually it captures the mood and style of the era I grew up. If I was a filmmaker this is what I’d be doing.

What’s the first film you remember seeing? What was so memorable about it?
That’s actually really difficult to answer. From my childhood/formative years the scenes that made impressions on me where: the palpable dry heat in The Good The Bad And The Ugly, the Kraftwerk floating broom scene in Breakin, sisterhood and transgression in Set It Off, Maggie Chung fidgeting with her neighbours doorbell in In The Mood For Love, and Lauryn and Whoopi going head to head in Sister Act 2.

What’s your favourite line or scene from a film? Why?
‘…you can't get out backwards, you have to go forwards to go back.’ – Willy Wonka (1971) Because there is a lot of truth in the film’s dark genius.

Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain? Why?
Tupac Shakur as Bishop in Juice so beautiful and so terrifying!

Who would play you in the film about your life? Why?
Danai Gurira, obviously!